5 tips to manage a fear of needles

5 tips to manage a fear of needles

Whether your child is heading back to school full time, part time or will continue remote learning this fall, they may be due for immunizations.

Immunizations are a critical part of preventive care. But if your child has experienced pain from prior experiences, you may be dreading bringing them back in.

“The truth is vaccine injections can hurt,” says Dr. Diana Bottari, medical director of pediatric pain management at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “No parent wants to see their child in pain, and they certainly don’t want to be the cause of the pain.”

So what can you do?

“Here’s the good news — you can help reduce not only the pain that may come with immunizations but also the anxiety, which can be worse than the pain,” says Dr. Bottari.

She offers the following tips for supporting your children and helping decrease not only their pain but the anxiety associated with immunizations.

  • Do not lie to your child: This is one of the most important things you can do. If they ask if they’re going to get a vaccine, tell the truth. This will decrease future anxiety about going to the doctor for non-vaccine appointments. When they receive “surprise” shots, they will always expect shots at subsequent appointments.
  • Use distraction techniques: Bring in your child’s tablet, play their favorite songs, do a silly dance or let them play a game on your phone during the vaccination.
  • Do not hold your child down: You may want to perform a comfort hold, a way of holding your child to comfort them while decreasing movement, but do not pin your child down. When you do this, you remove any sense of control they have, further increasing anxiety and pain.
  • Talk with your child’s doctor about using topical numbing cream: This is placed on the skin 30 minutes prior to vaccines and can greatly reduce the pain your child feels. It’s sometimes referred to as magic cream. You do not need a prescription.
  • Validate your child’s feelings: Instead of saying “Oh, now that didn’t hurt,” or “Big kids don’t cry,” instead say, “I know that was uncomfortable, and I’m so proud of how well you did.” Try to have them focus on something else, like the game on your phone or a stuffed animal.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.